What happens when a multibillion-dollar company wages legal war against a teenage girl? Her diaries, adorned with Mickey Mouse and Bob Marley, get subpoenaed. And her psychiatric information gets entered -- unredacted -- into the public record.
On Monday, we reported on the evolving craziness that is one Florida girl's lawsuit against CVS. She claims she was physically accosted by an employee in a bathroom of a Pembroke Pines pharmacy and then forced by cops to produce the hygienic pad she was wearing. She was 13 at the time.
We met with the now-15-year-old and her mother Monday morning in her attorney Spencer Aronfeld's Coral Gables office. One weeping breakdown notwithstanding, she told us the story the way she remembered it.
The girl -- who is unnamed here because she's a minor -- was with family when she used the bathroom in the CVS. "I had my pants down already, and I was about to use the restroom," she says. "And I felt somebody was peeking through. They asked, 'What are you doing?' I didn't answer because I was scared."
When she emerged from the stall, the girl says, employee Lisa Conteh grabbed her. The teen burst out of the bathroom and ran toward her mother, screaming, "There was somebody touching me!"
When her mother encountered Conteh in the bathroom, the CVS employee was irate: "Your daughter was stealing! She's a thief!" She accused the girl of stealing a feminine pad.
Her family called 911. But when two male cops arrived, they appeared to listen only to the CVS employee's story. The girl's mom says she tried to get them to watch the surveillance video, but the officers refused, arguing that it would confirm the theft and force them to arrest her. "If I look at the video," one of the officers allegedly said, "she's going to jail."
That's when, the girl claims, one of the cops told her to go into the bathroom and remove her pad to see if it matched the brand of an open box Conteh had found on the shelves.
"We have to do this," the mom told her daughter. "If you don't do this, you could be arrested."
When the girl emerged with her pad, the police seemed to have lost interest in checking it out.
The claim, relayed by several news outlets, that Conteh was the one who forced her to show her pad was the focal point of a heated recent deposition of the girl. That claim wasn't in the legal complaint. It appears it came from Aronfeld in the early days of the suit. "If anything," he says, "that was my misunderstanding."
In his police report, Officer Thomas Burgs makes no mention of having the girl show her pad. "[The girl] insisted that she had not concealed the item," he wrote. "However, several packages of feminine products were found open on the shelves of the store."
A Pembroke Pines police media relations specialist had no comment when asked about this incident.
To placate the police and CVS manager, mother and daughter bought a small package of feminine pads. The girl claims the episode has left her distrustful of police.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"The school always goes, 'You should trust the police if you need help,'" she says. "I doubt that. The police didn't protect us."
The lawsuit has gotten exceedingly ugly. CVS filed psychiatric notes concerning the girl in the public record, without redacting her name. And the company has subpoenaed her diaries. (We're still waiting to hear back from CVS and Conteh's attorney in the case, Aleida Mielke.)
"It's just so invasive," Aronfeld says of CVS's tactics. "I don't know a lot of kids that could weather this storm. This is a billion-dollar corporation that is clearly going after her jugular."